Brenda's Reviews > A Working Theory of Love

A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins
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Jun 28, 2012

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bookshelves: first-reads
Read from July 03 to 08, 2012

The central premise behind Scott Hutchins' A Working Theory of Love reminded me of Richard Powers' Galatea 2.2, but I found Hutchins' novel to be an easier read.

The Working Theory does pose interesting speculations regarding the combination of mentality, emotionality, and physicality involved in constructing artificial intelligence. It also forces us to wonder if a computer intelligence would need to be programmed to be both sinful as well as virtuous in order to pass as human.

Although Hutchins certainly retains his grasp on the difference between a computer programmed with the written thoughts of a person and that actual person, his protagonist sometimes seems to lapse. That lapse seems natural as he lacks the ability to resolve conflicts with the source of the computer's sentiments. His father committed suicide, but left behind a twenty-year diary, which provides thought content for the constructed intelligence.

In reading this novel, I was frequently reminded of conversations about the differences between clones and their originals. Persons who want to clone a dead loved one (animal or human) may believe that the clone can replace the dead, may even think of the clone as a reincarnation of the original. They want to bring the dead back to life, in other words, despite scientists warning that a clone cannot be identical to the original regardless of DNA.

Whenever some of the scientist characters talked as though they believed that the success of drbas (the computerized version of Dr. Bassett, the narrator's father) could eventually lead to the survival of the soul following the death of its orginal body, I felt a sense of disconnect. I kept wanting to argue. And, perhaps, that's a sign of success for a speculative novel.

Unfortunately, the intellectual questions weren't quite enough to compel my reading.

I could appreciate the narrator's parallel quest for a successful romantic relationship despite his fear of his inability to truly love. However, I just didn't find his series of "dates" to be all that entertaining. I wanted more humor or more action. At least, the narrator's conversations with humans were more lively than most of his exchanges with the computer, but I still felt uninvested in his romantic pursuits.

My reading did not gain momentum until the narrator travels--late in the text--to ask the relative of an old family friend for assistance in solving a mini-mystery.

Still, as other reviews at this site suggests, some readers will care more about these characters--and, I suspect, those working in the computer programming field may be more invested in the extended dialog exchanges between man and computer.

(I received this book via First Reads giveaway.)
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Reading Progress

07/07/2012 page 111
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